BY THE CALENDAR IT’S STILL A MONTH until summer arrives, but the thermometer on the back deck says it’s here, right now. For a lot of people, summer means vacation, leisure, rest, basking by the pool and generally avoiding stressful actions or thoughts. Sorry, folks—we can’t let you off quite that easily. Based on what’s in this issue, there’s just too much to do.
First, read Keith Stewart’s article on monarchs, and you’ll no doubt find yourself sitting by some wildflowers watching the butterflies. That will, of course, cause you to put away the bottle of Roundup you bought to spray the weeds with and, as Keith suggests, plant some weeds instead—milkweed in particular. Spurred by this act of environmental anarchy, you’ll naturally want to expand your reach into the larger global sphere, or at least as far as Poughkeepsie’s Twisted Soul Café, where global flavors are the special of the day, every day. After a good meal, your creative juices will really be flowing, so why not dedicate a few hours to trying out a new recipe or two? (There are 17 in this issue.) Maybe a gluten-free quiche interests you, or some homemade ketchup for your next grilled burger, or perhaps a pot of Manhattan clam chowder with fresh ingredients from the garden and the sea. Once you’ve done that, there’s a couple dozen farmers’ markets, county fairs and summer festivals to visit. Maybe these are the lazy, hazy days of summer; on the other hand, you may find there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Oh, the great tomato debate (or debacle, depending on your point of view) concludes with this issue. If you’re new to these pages, here’s a little deep background: As a youngster, I was warned by a doctor that I was prone to health maladies that would be exacerbated by eating nightshades—eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes. I took the warning to heart. Eggplants were easy to nix (my will was bolstered by my mother’s admonition, ”Never eat anything purple,” or something like that). I still avoid them unless the dish is far more parmigiana than eggplant. Back then, avoiding tomatoes was easy, too—we grew them in the home garden, of course, but, like many nasty habits formed in childhood, my resistance to eating them stuck and I never developed the passion for them that consumes so many people. (But potatoes? As in french fries and ketchup? As in baked potatoes with butter and sour cream? As in mashed potatoes and gravy? Sorry doc, no way.) In any case, I managed to live all these years avoiding perfectly good food, even weathering the storm of ridicule when I publicly outed my non-tomato orientation (a culinary heresy since at least 1649). Fast-forward: I couldn’t very well allow Robin Cherry’s article about heirloom tomatoes to pass over my desk without some serious editorial scrutiny, and I now have to admit there may be something to this tomato thing—all the hoopla, all the anticipation, all the attention and dedication given to these orange/green/yellow/white/red orbs of juice and flesh. Not that I regret avoiding them all these years, but I never imagined that, forced to eat my words, I’d find them so delicious.